Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by M.M. Meleen, co-author of the new Tarot Deciphered.

Tarot Decans

It’s perhaps an esoteric blind that tarot cards are referred to as “majors and “minors“—for it is the tarot minors that express the real power of tarot. The Majors provide the structure of the schema, but the Minors show these archetypal forces in action.

In 2014, I began creating the 36 cards known as the “decanic1” Minor Arcana—the Twos through Tens—for the Tabula Mundi Tarot. (The black-and-white inked art became the Nox et Lux edition2.) By spring 2015 the line drawings had been swiftly completed. From the astral this idea was only waiting to be born: the deck re-envisioned the minor card images to illustrate that each Minor is influenced by the combined energies of two related Major Arcana. Each combines the Major for its astrological sign with the Major for the planet that rules the specific decan, or ten-degree zodiacal segment, of the sign. It incorporates this concept directly into the imagery, providing both a mnemonic and a visual connection between related cards in a reading.

The minors of the Tabula Mundi were the first to visually illustrate this notion in the image in a recognizable way, by combining the motifs of the two related Majors into the design of each Minor. This very ancient concept of astrological decans and their planetary correspondences now comes up frequently in present-day esoteric tarot discussions, as classical astrology again comes into vogue.

The power of the Minors lies in the interaction between the archetypes communicated by the Majors. The Major Arcana are models of universal ideas, illuminated by their carefully curated and symbolic allegorical imagery. When two such Major forces combine, their synthesis creates something more fluid and even more potent, greater than the sum of its parts. The nature of tarot as a universal language is revealed.

The visual above shows just one example of this concept in action. The Art3 card (Temperance) is the card for the sign Sagittarius, which corresponds to the 8, 9, and 10 of Wands. While the sign itself is ruled by Jupiter, the decans have their own specific rulers. The 8 of Wands’ decan is ruled by Mercury, the Magician. The 8, Swiftness, combines the fleeting rainbow of Art with the caduceus and winged sandals of Mercury. The 9’s decan is ruled by the Moon, planet of the Priestess. In the 9, Strength, the tautly flexed lunar bow is a feature of both Art (Sagittarius the Archer) and the Priestess (Artemis), and the Priestess’ scroll glows on the card. In the 10, Oppression, an anvil is perched upon the glass alchemical vessel seen in the Art card. The anvil expresses the weight of Saturn (The Universe), and is inscribed with the gear of Saturn’s endless grind.4

For more about how astrological teachings fuel the tarot, check out Tarot Deciphered, where the hosts of the Fortune’s Wheelhouse tarot podcast unpack these and other connections card by card. Mel’s other works can be found at www.tabulamundi.com.

  1. “Decanic” referring to decans, ten-degree segments of the 360° zodiacal band.
  2. The completed black & white line art of Tabula Mundi was funded through Kickstarter (May 2015); several examples of the Majors/Minors decan relationships are illustrated there. Tabula Mundi is now available in full color as the Colores Arcus edition at https://www.tarotcart.com/.
  3. Tabula Mundi uses the Thoth system of titling and attribution.
  4. Each minor also receives a planetary influence from its related sephira on the Tree of Life—making the 8 and 9 of Wands doubly Mercurial and Lunar, respectively (all Eights as Hod/Mercury, Nines as Yesod/Moon).

Our thanks to Mel for her guest post! For more from M.M. Meleen, read her article “Tarot Beyond the Visible: Assigning the Transpersonal Planets to the Major Arcana.”

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Written by Anna
Anna is the Senior Consumer & Online Marketing Specialist, responsible for Llewellyn's New Worlds of Body, Mind & Spirit, the Llewellyn Journal, Llewellyn's monthly email newsletters, and more. In her free time, Anna enjoys reading an absurd number of books; doing crossword puzzles; watching ...